Connectionism and neural networks

By Gordon Rugg

There have been a lot of major changes in cognitive psychology over the last thirty-odd years. One of the biggest involves the growth of connectionist approaches, which occur at the overlap between neurophysiology and Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularly Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs).

Research in these areas has brought about a much clearer understanding of the mechanisms by which the brain operates. Many of those mechanisms are profoundly counter-intuitive, and tend to be either misunderstood or completely ignored by novices, which is why I’m writing about them now, in an attempt to clarify some key points.

There are plenty of readily available texts describing how connectionist approaches work, usually involving graph theory diagrams showing weighted connections. In my experience, novices tend to find these explanations hard to follow, so in this article, I’ll use a simple but fairly solid analogy to show the underlying principles of connectionism, and of how the brain can handle tasks without that handling being located at any single point in the brain.

bannerOriginal images from Pinterest and from Wikipedia; details at the end of the article.

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Sunday Silliness: Barbara Cartland meets H.P. Lovecraft

By Gordon Rugg

Some ideas are better than others. This one probably belongs in the “others” category…

Have you ever wondered what would have resulted if only Dame Barbara Cartland had shared her talents with H.P. Lovecraft in a collaborative work of literature?

If so, wonder no more. This is the first in a set of articles that interweave text from one of Dame Barbara’s works with a little-known tale from Lovecraft. It’s written as if the two authors had taken it in turns to add a new sentence to the unfolding story. Between those lines, you can see the dynamic tensions of two unique talents striving to deploy their distinctive visions to best effect.

The story is told by an anonymous narrator.

I hope that this work will bring a unique new sensation to readers.


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Literature reviews

By Gordon Rugg

Almost every academic article begins with a literature review. As is often the case in academia, this is a rich, sophisticated art form, whose complexities are often invisible to novices. As is also often the case in academia, there are usually solid, sensible reasons for those complexities. As you may already have guessed, these reasons are usually not explained to students and other novices, which often leads to massive and long-lasting misunderstandings.

This article looks at the nature and purpose of literature reviews. It also looks at some forms of literature review which are not as widely known as they should be.

It’s quite a long article, so here’s a picture of a couple of cats as a gentle start.

cats on sofa

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Monday mood lifter: The Japanese have a word for it

By Gordon Rugg

In case your Monday morning needs some brightening, here’s a concept that might lift your day out of the rut.

It’s a Japanese art form called gyotaku. Literally translated, that means “fish rubbing”. It involves rubbing dead fish, but the Japanese name doesn’t bother to specify the deadness component.

The full explanation isn’t as surreal as the literal translation implies. Not quite.

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Trees, nets and teaching

By Gordon Rugg

Much of the debate on education uses diagrams to illustrate points being discussed.

Many of those diagrams are based on informal semantics.

The result is often chaos.

In this article, I’ll use the knowledge pyramid as an example of how informal semantics can produce confusion rather than clarity.


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Monday humour: The Barbara Cartland experience

By Gordon Rugg

Have you ever wondered what a Barbara Cartland novel is like, but never quite got round to finding out?

If so, you no longer need to wonder; I’ve put a representative small sample below the fold.


(Original photo, plus images from wikipedia: details at the end of this article.)

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Representing argumentation via systematic diagrams, part 1

By Gordon Rugg

This article is a short introduction to some basic principles involved in representing argumentation, evidence and/or chains of reasoning using systematic diagrams.

This approach can be very useful for clarifying chains of reasoning, and for identifying gaps in the evidence or in the literature.

As usual, there’s an approach that looks very similar, but that is actually subtly and profoundly different, namely mind maps. That’s where we’ll begin.

A mind mapSlide1

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Chunking, schemata and prototypes

By Gordon Rugg and Sue Gerrard

What are chunking, schemata and prototypes, and why should anybody care?

The second question has a short answer. These are three core concepts in how people process and use information, so they’re centrally important to fields as varied as education and customer requirements gathering.

The first question needs a long answer, because although these concepts are all fairly simple in principle, they have a lot of overlap with each other. This has frequently led to them being confused with each other in the popular literature, which has in turn led to widespread conceptual chaos.

This article goes through the key features of these concepts, with particular attention to potential misunderstandings. It takes us through the nature of information processing, and through a range of the usual suspects for spreading needless confusion.

bannerOriginal images from Wikipedia; details at the end of this article

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It was a dark and stormy night: Dark humour for a Monday morning

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton, with Gordon Rugg

Just in case there isn’t enough eldritch horror in your life, I’m blogging a short series inspired by legends of literature that are usually only known by reputation, not by first hand experience.

There’s usually a good reason for those legends being known only by reputation, so to spare sensitive sensibilities, I’ve put the text in question below the fold.

Today’s text is the first paragraph of the novel that opens with the legendary “dark and stormy night”.

If you feel ready to face it, then an indescribable new experience awaits you…

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Logic, evidence, and evidence-based approaches

By Gordon Rugg

So what is “evidence-based” anyway, and why do so many people make such a fuss about it?

In this article, I’ll look at the context of “evidence-based” and at some common misconceptions and mistakes about it.

It’s a journey through the limitations of logic, through the legacy of theology on modern debate, and through the nature of evidence.

It starts with a paradox that took over two thousand years to solve, involving pointy sticks and tortoises.

The arrow of logic and the chain of evidence, plus a tortoise and a charm bracelet0header2Images adapted from Wikipedia and Wikimedia; details at end of article

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